Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Here on the Cwach farm, the days are getting colder, the nights are getting longer, and its inhabitants are getting hungrier (namely, the mother-to-be!) That means only one thing- it’s soup season.

Each year, as soon as the first snowfall hits, hearty soups become a permanent fixture in the Cwach kitchen. It’s a great way to sneak in plenty of vegetables, while keeping my farmer warm during the frigid winter days when he’s out checking cows or moving snow. We are constantly on the hunt for new recipes that are full of flavor, deliciously creamy and most importantly, fuss-free.

Needless to say, when I saw this recipe for chicken wild rice soup shared by a friend, I was instantly intrigued. Too many times I’ve suffered the disappointment of a bland wild rice soup that tastes watered down, not rich and creamy. After making a big pot of this the first time, we quickly put it on the next week’s menu, and then the week after that. In a short time, it’s become our favorite soup to throw together on a cold winter’s night with little effort spent in the kitchen.

This soup starts with the classic mirepoix, a French culinary term for the combination of onions, carrots and celery. We’ve changed the original recipe slightly to use more carrots and celery than the typical mirepoix ratio (traditionally two parts onion to one parts each carrot and celery), but the idea is the same – to instill flavor into your soup. We just happen to love hearty vegetable soup so we add plenty of extra carrots and celery, but feel free to cut back the amount to suit your tastes.

As you prepare this soup, be sure to season liberally with salt and pepper, starting with a light seasoning and adjusting as you taste your soup. Remember, while you can always add more salt to the dish, you can’t take it out! You can poach or roast your own chicken breasts, or use pulled meat from a rotisserie chicken. If you don’t have a can of evaporated milk on hand, you can put 2 ¼ cups whole milk in a saucepan and simmer until reduced to one cup. We prefer to use the whole-fat evaporated milk over the low-fat or non-fat varieties for a richer, creamier taste, but any of those varieties will work.

This chicken wild rice soup is special enough to be served on Christmas Eve, but can easily be prepared in 30 minutes or less on a weeknight. Garnish with shaved cheese, chopped green onions or minced chives for a simple yet stunning presentation.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients
¼ c. butter
1 large onion
2 c. chopped carrots
2 c. chopped celery
¼ c. flour
Salt and pepper
2 c. chicken broth
12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 c. cooked wild rice
1 c. cooked chicken
4 oz. cream cheese

Directions
Melt butter in a stockpot and cook onion, carrots and celery until carrots are tender. Add flour and chicken broth, and season liberally. Add in evaporated milk, wild rice, chicken and cream cheese and stir on low heat until cheese melts.

Season to taste and serve.

*If you don’t have evaporated milk, put 2 ¼ cups whole milk in a saucepan and simmer until reduced to one cup.

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Baby Boy on the Way!

Thirteen weeks after finding out we were at last expecting our first child, we finally made it to the day we’d been anxiously waiting for on the Cwach Farm – our 18-week anatomy scan, where we’d finally find out whether Baby Cwach was a boy or a girl, and more importantly, healthy and growing.

To be completely honest, up until that point, part of my mind still couldn’t come to terms that in just a few short months, we’d have a baby in our arms. Although we had happily announced the pregnancy and were busy planning our nursery and making child care arrangements, it was difficult to feel 100 percent confident that these plans would actually become a reality. Outwardly, I still looked and felt very much the same, and without feeling any movement inside, it was easy to slip into moments of doubt. Had something terrible happened in the last four weeks? Would I even know if it had?

But suddenly that day was here, and as we waited in front of the ultrasound monitor, we found ourselves staring at the face of our baby – who no longer looked like a small blob on the screen but an actual human being! Our ultrasound technician chuckled, told us we had a bit of a show-off on our hands, and announced the news that we would be having a baby boy – and he looked perfectly healthy.

Suddenly, everything seemed incredibly real. Not only could I see the baby – our son! – moving around and waving his arms, but I felt like I could finally start imagining what our son and his life might be like. And I couldn’t be happier knowing that he was going to grow up as the seventh generation on the farm and raised in a way not many kids get to experience these days.

I’ve always been convinced that growing up on the farm is one of the best places to grow up. As a town kid, the highlight of every summer was spending weeks on my grandparents’ farms, which were just a short drive away from each other in Sisseton. My sisters and I treasured those moments, simple though they were – driving the lawn mower around the farm, riding horses, learning how to drive the Bobcat skid-steer loader, taming kittens, working in the garden and baking with grandma.

Stories of Dan’s childhood share the same sense of freedom and wonderment.  At just five years old, Dan was known to trek down the gravel path on a four-wheeler to play cards late at night with his grandparents, who lived nearby. He happily played with toy tractors and buckets in silage piles, mimicking what dad and grandpa were doing and waiting for the day when he, too, could drive the big machinery. Until then, he was just happy to be tagging along behind his dad in the back of the International 5088 tractor cab.

As soon-to-be parents, we consider ourselves extremely blessed to be able to give our children not just the simple pleasures of country living, but those unique opportunities that come from farm life that build character and teach responsibility. Whether it’s helping bring a calf inside the house to warm up in the dead of winter, or bottle feeding an orphaned calf, or seeing dad come in late after a long day planting, there’s always a life lesson to learn on the farm. And we plan to take advantage of every opportunity to teach those lessons to the next generation.

Mary’s Crazy Lazy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Each year as the holidays approach, I excitedly start ripping recipes out of glossy magazines and pinning image after image of drool-worthy desserts and drinks onto my Pinterest board. My imagination quickly spins out of control as I envision a smorgasbord of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres hot from the oven, elegant cocktails with festive garnishes and intricate desserts that require hours of delicate decorating.

Then reality hits, and I remember that I’m serving a dozen immediate family members and seven nieces and nephews under the age of 8 who care more about playing Legos with their aunt than fine dining. And after spending my first holiday as hostess in the kitchen the whole night with mussed hair and aching feet, I resolved that any future hosting would heavily rely on food that could be prepared the night before.

I’ve now developed an arsenal of recipes that have become family favorites that require little to no work in the kitchen the day of an event. One favorite we make year after year is from my mother-in-law, Mary. The recipe, which my husband Dan has aptly named “Mary’s Crazy Lazy Garlic Mashed Potatoes,” is a foolproof way to make mashed potatoes the night before with no need for homemade gravy hurriedly whipped up twenty minutes before dinner. I’ll be honest- mashed potatoes has always been a small fear of mine when it comes to hosting. It can be a finicky dish and my potatoes always seem to turn gluey and lumpy when the pressure is on.

Even better, there’s no peeling of potatoes required! Simply remove any eyes or bad spots, boil, blend with sour cream, cream cheese, garlic salt and chives, top with paprika and butter and bake. It’s so easy, but tastes so decadent. I like to mix these in my Kitchen-Aid mixer, but a hand mixer would work just as well.

A word of caution on garlic salt – I usually season without measuring until it suits my taste, but three leveled teaspoons (or one tablespoon) is typically a good starting point for us. Remember, you can’t remove the salt once it’s been added, so start conservatively and gradually add more garlic salt as needed. If you want a more pronounced garlic taste without adding more salt, simply add more garlic powder or fresh garlic to the potatoes.

This recipe makes me a happier, less harried host, which in turn makes my guests more relaxed and able to enjoy the festivities. I try to remember that in a few years, they probably won’t remember the food, but they will remember the fun they had. Here’s to a holiday season that is full of family, good cheer and fuss-free cooking!

Mary’s Crazy Lazy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients
8-10 red potatoes
1 cup sour cream
1 brick cream cheese, softened
Chives
2-3 teaspoons garlic salt, or to taste
Paprika
Butter

Directions
No need to peel potatoes, just peel off eyes and bad spots. Boil in salted water until fork tender; drain. Blend sour cream and cream cheese until mixed. While potatoes are still hot, add potatoes to sour cream/cream cheese mixture, a few at a time until blended. Don’t overmix. Add garlic salt and chives to taste.

Spoon into a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle paprika on top. Dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, the first half covered with foil. Remove from oven; garnish with additional chives, if desired. Serve immediately.

Tip: These can made the night before- just bring to room temperature before baking.

Source: Mary Cwach